Ok, the title of this post might be a little over dramatic. It really should be titled be aware of the Schengen agreement.
For most travelers, people traveling less than 3 months, you don’t even have to read this but if you plan on being in Europe for over 90 days then you definitely need to know about the Schengen agreement.
What is the Schengen agreement?
The Schengen Agreement (shang-en) was signed on June 14, 1985 in Schengen, Luxembourg. The treaty was designed to open the borders between many European countries by abolishing internal border checks between them.
Rules of the Schengen agreement
The rules for traveling in the Schengen area will probably mess up your 6 month Europe itinerary.
You can only travel for a maximum of 90 days in the member countries out of every 180 days.
To spell it out further, in every 6 month period (180 days) you can only be in countries in the Schengen area for 3 months (90 days). For the other 3 months you have to be out of the area.
Do I need a Schengen visa?
Most countries around the world, including Canada and the United States, do NOT require you to have a special visa to travel to any of the countries in the Schengen area.
There are no visa extensions available for stays of more than 90 days.
When you arrive in your first Schengen member country you’ll go through customs, show your passport and have it stamped. Once done, you will not have to show your passport again when traveling in and out of any other countries in the area.
Trip planning tricks
So, the real question becomes – how can I travel in Europe for more than 90 days?
Well, you’ll have to be creative with your itinerary by mixing in countries not in the Schengen area with countries that are.
Keep in mind the 90 days you’re in the area don’t have to be consecutive so you can hop in and out of the area at will.
Countries not in the Schengen area include tourist hotspots like Ireland, United Kingdom and Croatia. There are also lesser visited countries that should also be on your radar like Serbia, Bosnia, Romania and Bulgaria.
You could also take a side trip down to Morocco or visit Ukraine or Russia.
The key is to make sure out of every 180 days travel you’re in the zone for 90 and out of the zone for 90.